Media pundits ask: Should the US bomb Iran now?
In the wake of Vice President Cheney's saber-rattling statements over the weekend warning Iran of "serious consequences" if it attempts to develop nuclear weapons, the cable news networks have focused heavily on the prospect of imminent war against Iran.
Fox News spoke with military analysts Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney. Both men are members of the Iran Policy Committee, which was founded in 2005 to press for more aggressive action against Iran.
Cowan told Fox that he believes we are heading for war with Iran, though he suggested it might be more effective to support the "positive, forward-leaning political resistance against the regime" -- an apparent reference to the terrorist MEK group of which the Iran Policy Committee has been a supporter.
McInerney, however, said, "We, in fact, should. There are enough dots out there that we have more than enough rationale to do it." He claimed that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has killed more than 300 Americans in the last 8 months -- a figure which, if correct, would amount to roughly half of all US deaths in Iraq during that period.
"I don't think we're going to have a lot of options," Cowan concluded.
At MSNBC, Chris Matthews invited a debate on the question, "Should the United States Bomb Iran Now?" between Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute and Jim Walsh of MIT's Security Studies Program.
Muravchik -- who has been a leading exponent of overthrowing the Iranian government since 1993, when he co-founded the Foundation for Democracy in Iran -- described Iran as "the biggest international sponsor of terrorism." He asserted that Iran is "on a mission that starts with hegemony over the Middle East ... It sees itself, in a sense, at war with us. ... If it gets a nuclear weapon, it will use that as a kind of umbrella with which to push forth its quest for dominance."
"The prestige factor of owning that weapon even if they never use it is horrible," summarized Matthews.
Jim Walsh, however, warned of the immediate negative consequences of bombing Iran, saying, "First and foremost, it would be extremely costly. ... I mean, if you like the war in Iraq, you would love the war in Iran." He suggested that an escalation of attacks on US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and a dramatic increase in the price of oil were only two of the likely outcomes.
Walsh also debunked Muravchik's suggestion that Iran might build a nuclear weapon and then hand it over to terrorists, saying that no government has ever done that. "They can't trust these crazy guys," he emphasized.
Matthews then hit Muravchik with a series of questions, including whether the threat of terrorists obtaining loose nukes from the former Soviet republics is not far greater than any hypothetical actions by Iran, how long it might take Iran to build not merely a nuclear weapons but a suitcase-sized device that could be used by terrorists, and whether any of Muravchik's associates at AEI actually believe Iran is "on the verge of getting a weapon that could be transported by a terrorist group."
"You're saying bomb now," Matthews said, demanding to know what is so urgent that it can't wait while diplomatic and economic efforts are given time to work. He also asked Muravchik whether his real deadline is to see Iran bombed before Bush leaves office.
"We've waited," Muravchik insisted, claiming he never said we should bomb Iran "this minute" and that even "a year from now might be soon enough" but "there's no alternative way to stop them."
"If we're concerned about terrorism, bombing Iran is absolutely the worst thing you could do," Walsh concluded. "It is giving al Qaeda this giant gift." He also pointed out that even an active Iranian weapons program could be reversed, saying that North Korea is now dismantling its own nuclear program and also that "Almadinejad is not calling the shots" in Iran.
The following video is from MSNBC's Hardball and Fox's Fox & Friends, broadcast on October 22 and 23, 2007.